Taking mobile health to the next level

Dec 3, 2020

“One Monday morning, I had a four-year-old girl with a fever brought in by her father. The father was agitated. I took my cell phone and started my consultation. When I showed the father the pictures of danger signs on my phone, I noticed that he calmed down and started asking questions to better understand the treatment. The child had malaria, so I gave her Lumartem and Paracetamol.

The next day the father who was restless the day before came by my house to say thank you. I felt more effective and confident in the diagnosis and treatment I provided because I used the new assessment tool from my phone. I learned a lot during my training, but it’s helpful to have this simple application as another resource to do my job well.”

This is one of the most memorable stories from Tado Mougni N’Dolighin, a Community Health Worker in the Dankpen district, who has just started using the clinical assessment tool application on her new smartphone. In October 2020, the Integrate Health team launched the use of a smartphone application, a clinical assessment tool, to assist 81 Community Health Workers (CHWs) in conducting their patient consultations. The application guides CHWs through a series of questions about the patient’s health and any symptoms and supports CHWs to diagnose, treat, and refer patients. In addition, the smartphone application stores all consultation data and syncs with the IH server, eliminating the need for CHWs to carry large binders and registers and fill out paper forms.

A Community Health Worker reading the manual on how to use the new ThinkMD application.

The goal of this clinical assessment tool, which IH co-developed with the organization ThinkMD, is to help CHWs more effectively manage their work by guiding them through patient consultations and improved data feedbacks loops. The Integrate Health and ThinkMD teams have been working for months to transition Integrate Health’s paper forms for CHW home visits into digital forms. CHWs fill out the forms as they screen for danger signs, provide treatment, refer, and follow up with patients. The two teams enjoyed the collaboration, as Megan McLaughlin, the Research and Implementation Manager at ThinkMD, says, “While ThinkMD led the clinical side, Integrate Health provided the insight needed to implement appropriate and effective healthcare services to the communities it serves. This relationship is a true partnership, capable of great success.”

Even though the clinical assessment tool is in its early stages of roll-out, the program team already finds the move from paper forms to digital data collection a significant step in making their work more fluid and productive. “Apart from facilitating training and reducing paper use,” explains Program Director Emile Bobozi, “the clinical assessment tool will facilitate the scale-up of our program because it provides CHWs with clinical support at their fingertips.” The CHW supervisors also find that the assessment tool makes their jobs easier. Instead of waiting for paper performance reports to reach the office each month, CHW supervisors have fast access to data online, allowing them to provide more targeted and timely support to CHWs.

Community Health Workers testing the use of the diagnostic tool.

In the coming months, Integrate Health will conduct a qualitative research study to assess the implementation of the clinical assessment tool from the perspective of CHWs and patients. Insights gained from this evaluation will allow Integrate Health and our partners in the Ministry of Health to understand how the tool impacts the care provided by CHWs.

The COVID-19 pandemic made the launch of the clinical assessment tool challenging, moving coordination meetings online from in-person, and impacting the in-person training schedule and logistics. However, Integrate Health is pleased with the big step taken in using technology to amplify the lifesaving work of CHWs.